The Red Sox awoke in Toronto this morning, a baseball team in a different country staring at a new landscape. Both figuratively and literally, the Sox are in a foreign land.

On Friday, Boston arrived in New York with fans buzzing about a chance to catch the Yankees in the AL East race.

That excitement rose after Clay Buchholz pitched the Sox to a 6-3 win that night, and reached a crescendo as the Sox took a 2-0 lead off CC Sabathia Saturday afternoon.

It was a quick fall from that peak, however. John Lackey couldn’t hold that lead, and Josh Beckett was beat up in New York (again) Sunday night.

the time the teams met in the final game Monday, the division lead seemed out of reach.

As they say, when one door closes another opens. The Red Sox beat the Yankees Monday. And the Tampa Bay Rays were swept by the Blue Jays over the weekend.

Joe Maddon’s team, once youthful and poised to run away from the pack, was suddenly facing the reality of a pitching staff battered by injury.

the end of the weekend, Jeff Niemann and Wade Davis had left the team to have their shoulders examined. Reliever Grant Balfour was on the DL. Chad Qualls, their key bullpen acquisition at the trade deadline, had given up three earned runs on three hits (one home run) and walked two in just 3 innings.

Compounding matters was Carlos Pena’s lingering foot injury, which landed him – and his team-leading 23 home runs – on the DL.

The 2010 Rays have always been offensively challenged.

They came one out away from being no hit on Sunday, which would’ve marked the third time this season they would have gone hitless.

No other team in the history of baseball has done that.

The Rays’ only hope of making it to a playoff spot is through superior pitching. Now, with 40 percent of the starting rotation in question, that pitching may not be up to the challenge.

Meantime, the Twins have quietly crept into the picture. Once the prohibitive favorites to win the Central, Joe Mauer and company have won 14 of 18 and carry momentum into tonight’s series opener with the White Sox.

We expected the past four days in New York to be the defining weekend in Boston’s playoff hopes.

In some ways, it was. It’s unlikely the Sox will win the East. They trail the Yankees by six games.

The wild card, however, is suddenly up for grabs (Boston trails the Rays by 41/2).

And the ending to this strange Red Sox story is still to be written.


Tom Caron is the studio host for Red Sox broadcasts on the New England Sports Network. His column appears in the Press Herald on Tuesdays.


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